[This post is for those of you who are Chairs, wealth advisors, therapists, facilitators…]

Advisors: don’t stand by as clients/members run on the rocks of dysfunction. If they already have, don’t assume that nothing can be done to restore and rehabilitate a perfectly viable business from the wreckage of torn trust.

The video interview below with the CEO of a thriving family business is a case study in applying Fixing Fractures: Restoring Shattered Relationships in Business and in Life to a fragmenting culture.

Companies are high-risk fracture zones.

Recipe: gather a bunch of different people bent on accomplishing a mission, throw them together into a pressure cooker and turn up the heat. And voila! Issues become Problems become Feuds become Vendettas. Fractures between key contributors who must collaborate to achieve profit for the sake of the business create significant barriers. How can a company work with high-ranking people clashing at cross purposes?

Have you experienced this? Watched promising ventures run afoul because of fragmenting ‘teams’?

There probably aren’t fist fights. More likely its undermining, jabs at meetings, faint support, disparaging comments about peers that demonstrate an iceberg of misalignment.

The players don’t set out for that. They’re just trying to do their jobs, as they see them. But because difference is natural, it puts them on a collision course with workmates. Not because they’re bloody minded, but because they care.

Now – throw in the added dimension of family ties, and things become really charged.

Some of these are solvable through ‘reorganization’, or ‘restructuring’. But exiting long-term, indispensable haulers is not always a smart option, and not available in many family companies. CEOs don’t always know there’s another way: The Resolution path.

Here’s a recent enquiry from a long-term Chair colleague:

I have a friend who is COO of a successful winery. The family who runs it is in conflict around succession and family dynamics. They have retained someone to help with the succession issues but their focus is not on the underlying family issues. Do you have…

Well, this crew is at least facing the issues. Advisors watch in agony as they see what most member/client leaders do…

Avoid. Duck. Hope it will go away.

They can’t. It won’t. And it doesn’t.

Fixing Fractures in an advisory practice

Tuning into a similar dynamic drove Bruce Harbinson, senior TEC Chair in the Toronto area to make contact.

My TEC member, Deb Coselman, is CEO of a thriving agribusiness. She has three other sisters engaged in the biz. The dynamics are intense and not always working out. The father, though ‘retired’, is a shadowy presence. They need to get this sorted out…can you help?

Well, yes, I could, and we did.

The view from my seat

The conduit was Peter Buchanan, already tied in with Bruce. I enrolled him to co-facilitate. We met Deb, President of King Cole Ducks, over the phone. She asked, “How would an engagement work?”

Having gained the sponsorship of the CEO (the most critical and important step of all!), the first step is to meet the players, separately, then together.

The visits with each one individually, are simple. After the usual introductions, and the “Who are you and what do you do?”, we go straight to the core, often cued by the CEO. “What’s the rhubarb between you and [another sister]? How did you come apart, as far as you know? What are the impacts of that division?”

Pretty quickly, we have an inventory of fractures. They range in intensity from little disputes to real game breakers.

It’s time to bring them together. Can they sit in the same room? Are they closed off? Or are they open enough to learn, and commit to a discipline of high-octane meetings? Can they buy into rules of engagement? Can they contribute to, and sign off on, a purpose for this work?

This engagement conference cements the basis for three resolution conferences to follow. That’s where we tackle the conflicts head on.

“Really? it takes that much time?” I say to folks, “It took years for you to make these; it’s going to take that much to unwind them.” These are tangled, difficult patterns to tease out and end. They don’t lend themselves to the instant fix we’d like.

The Resolution phase launches with a half-day of teaching the Fixing Fractures elements:

  • the Relationship Mindset,
  • the Resolution Protocol,
  • the Prep Work, and
  • the Flow.

Thus, the sisters are equipped to go into the lion’s den with each other.

We announced the order of real business just before lunch. In the first afternoon, we hit the most explosive difference between the most alienated pair first. In this case, it was the operations head and the marketing sister squaring off. Both had their completed preparation worksheets in hand. Points they didn’t want to forget in the heat of the moment were noted on flip charts and strategically placed so that each could glance up and be reminded. They started in…

One led off, and proceeded through the Protocol outline, laying out their situation. Occasional corrective prompts and nudges from the facilitators helped them stay true to the concepts and order.

After an intense hour in front of the assembled group, the pair reached a first plateau of resolution. Then they worked on pressure testing: “What might sabotage this resolution?” That led to a much broader scope and allowed them to arrive at deep agreement that met the test of true resolution: this issue will never come up again.

They were done. They stood up. Their agreement was stated aloud, and applauded. The sisters were radiant, finally back on course, and on the same page once again. Embracing. Tears.

And so it went, on through the inventory of fractures between pairs. Until all were resolved.

John Konstanturos’ team building theory was simple: If we fix what’s driving group members apart, they’ll naturally draw together. They did. And still are united.

The view from Deb Coselman’s seat

At a TEC Conference in early 2022, Deb kindly sat down with me. She let me in on the impact of the hard work they’d done. The Protocol is still used in the company, whenever an issue presents itself. You can watch Deb right here, and hear for yourself how she relates the lasting legacy of the resolutions reached…

Can you help people in companies use Fixing Fractures – Restoring Shattered Relationships in Business and Life? Sure can. Deb testifies to the value.